The death of George McGovern on the eve of the presidential candidates’ foreign policy debate underscored a momentous political reversal spanning four decades.

McGovern’s nomination for president in 1972, a consequence of the Democratic Party’s recoil against the Vietnam War and the riotous convention four years earlier, made the country uneasy about his party regarding national security. Four decades later, however, voters may be more ambivalent about America’s world role than at any time since the 1930s.

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